Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 20, 2001

Milo's closes its doors after 12 years of serving patrons

By Lynda Jensen

The handwriting is on the wall for Milo's Restaurant in Howard Lake.

The handwriting, scribbled with black marker by about 50 patrons during the past two weeks, represents numerous farewells and other messages to owners Milo and Sandy Westrum for their 12 years of service.

That service ended Saturday, when Milo's Restaurant closed its doors for good.

The lot and building were recently purchased by the City of Howard Lake in its quest to commercially redevelop that block.

The seven bar stools, tables, and kitchen stand empty today, where Milo Westrum used to grill hamburgers, patty melts, and other goodies for hungry patrons.

The messages range from mournful to thankful. One anonymous message reads "We know where you live - we'll be over for breakfast . . . We'll have the usuals." Another simply reads "Thanks for the good food."

"Everyone likes Milo's!" exclaimed Howard Lake patron Stephanie Friesen, adding that when the food is good, that people naturally come.

The Friesens added their own message to the wall when they finished their meal.

"We've had a good life here," reflected Sandy Westrum. She will miss the busy bustle and light hearted conversation . . . and the people, most of all. "I can't say enough about the people in town."

In fact, even though the reconstruction of Highway 12 is in full force, loyal Milo's patrons climb over sand and rock, and around orange fencing, to get to Milo's, Sandy said. "We are location challenged," she said of the detour.

"We couldn't ask for a better crew," Sandy Westrum said, referring to Milo's staff.

The longest running member of "the crew" - Shirley Fevig - could barely hide her tears as she spoke about how much she enjoyed her job and the people. "It's tearing my heart," Fevig said.

The rest of the crew includes Betty Jaymes as a part-time cook, and Brenda Jones as waitress. Sandy, who is semi-retired, works four days a week, and Milo is the cook.

Milo decided he wanted to be a cook at the age of 15, he said. Being from a large family, it was second nature for him to start his career serving food for many. He's been cooking for 35 years now.

Milo's opened for business in 1989, when the Westrums purchased the building from Mark Custer and Dennis Haugland, Sandy Westrum said.

Previously, the Westrums operated the Cokato Cafe for two years.

At the time, Holt Motors desired the property, and their lease was up, Sandy said. This eventually lead them to Howard Lake, she said. The couple lives in Waverly.

In the past, Milo's used to be a tasty freeze, taco stand, and ice cream parlor, Sandy said.

In 1963, it operated as a gas station, which caused some soil contamination on that lot. It will be cleaned up along with Highway 12.

The Westrums will spend the next two weeks cleaning up and assisting vendors who will come to pick up equipment, Sandy said.

They purchased a retirement home at Big Waverly Lake seven years ago.

Sandy retired after 35 years at Honeywell, she said. Milo is far from thinking of retirement, she said.

"He will definitely be re-opening," Sandy said, referring to her husband. They are exploring several options right now, she said.

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